by B.B. Pelletier
Okay, today is a fun day of strolling down memory lane. There is some confusion about the different types of Sheridan Silver and Blue Streaks that have existed over the 57 years that the guns have been made. I thought I would clear this up for you. For those of you who want to put together a real library on airguns, the best single reference I’ve found for Sheridans is Ron Elbe’s book, Know Your Sheridan Rifles and Pistols. It’s available on Amazon both new and used.
This book is the best authority on Sheridan airguns
Three major variations
While there have been hundreds of changes over the more than half-century that Sheridans have been made, there are only three major variants. They’re the thumb safety, the rocker safety and the C9. You really need to know the complex history of the Sheridan company to appreciate these changes. To do that, you should also have the Blue Book of Airguns Fifth Edition.
The thumb safety, 1949-1963
The first safety device Sheridan used was an automatic safety that airgunners today refer to as the “thumb safety.” It was an attempt at making certain the shooter’s hand was correctly positioned on the grip. Otherwise, the spring-loaded thumb button could not be depressed, and the gun could not be fired. There was just one problem. Sheridan positioned this safety about one inch too far forward on the wrist of the rifle for the vast majority of shooters. They could not reach the thumb button without holding the rifle unnaturally.
The thumb safety is really a type of grip safety similar in concept to the one found on M1911 pistols, but poorly executed. Where the 1911 safety is so ergonomic that it’s seldom noticed, the thumb safety on a Sheridan is more like the kill switch on a modern lawnmower – something that assumes a stupid operator and tries to protect the lowest common denominator through design.
The thumb safety had to be held down to shoot the gun. It was inconvenient for most people and was often jammed down permanently.
As a result, a great many of these thumb safety guns have been altered with field fixes to permanently hold down the safety. The easiest method is to jam a wooden toothpick in the slot on one or both sides of the safety button. A very common fix is to drill a small hole in the thumb button for a crosspin so the safety cannot rise out of the stock. The safety was hated so much that relatively few unaltered guns survive today. (Altered guns lose much of their collector value.)
The stock wood on the earliest version is very slim and svelte, giving the rifle the feel of quality when it’s held in the shooting position. It’s also very graceful in profile. From the standpoint of performance, however, it is the same rifle that’s still being sold today, shooting 14.3-grain pellets at 650-675 f.p.s. with eight pumps of air.
The rocker safety, 1963-1990
In February of 1963, Sheridan finally caved in to the criticism of the automatic thumb safety and changed it to a rocker-type. You have to remove the stock to see that both safety buttons are actually two sides of a single rocking mechanism, hence the name. This safety is manual, as all good safeties should be, and it is the most sought-after by shooters.
The rocker safety has a button on the left for “Fire” and one on the right for “Safe.” This is the most coveted of all vintage Sheridan Streak models.
With this model, the stock wood became fatter, giving shooters the feeling of an adult rifle. Only by holding the older thumb safety gun does one know how nice the slimmer stock can feel. The power and accuracy remained the same.
The C9, 1991-present
Now, some quick history. In 1977, the Benjamin Air Rifle Company bought Sheridan, which remained in Racine, Wisconsin, operating as a separate entity. Benjamin joined Sheridan in Racine in 1986. The gun was still called a Sheridan model C. In 1991, Crosman bought Benjamin and quickly began to merge the two lines of airguns through the use of common parts. That’s why the new model C9 looks a lot like a Benjamin 392. There is no distinct date when the names Benjamin and Sheridan were merged into one, but it didn’t take too long. The stock wood is now thicker than ever.
The safety on the C9 is a lever that pulls straight back from the rear of the receiver. It’s a piece of flat steel stock that is bent into a loop at the back. Performance of the gun continues as it always was, so you can still buy a piece of history in 2006!